Savoring a December night on Piazza San Marco

The evenings before Christmas, when dawn and wet mists set in from the late afternoon, are a good time to get to know another Piazza San Marco, shrouded in darkness and decorated with green fir twigs for Christmas. Follow me for a walk under the traditional Christmas decorations in search for traces of long-lost places and to discover the spot where the gondolas sleep right on Piazza San Marco. Now in the early evening, you will be able to fully enjoy the mystical setting of Piazza San Marco, walking under its arcades that are festively decorated with dark green fir garlands, in place since a few days: Exactly on the eve of 8 December at 18:00, the Christmas lights were switched on in Piazza San Marco, with tiny red lights sparkling amidst the dark green branches, with white light balls coming down from the center vaults. 
If you cannot be in Venice right now: This is what it looks like, fir twigs have arrived on the Piazza, ushering in Christmas time on the Piazza
Near the Museo Correr, seen from the Gran Caffè Quadri
Christmas lights seen from the Procuratie Vecchie side, with the Campanile hidden in darkness
With fewer people around Piazza San Marco, you can now concentrate on details, for example you could look for the flagstone depicting the facade of a church that for centuries had been located just opposite the Basilica di San Marco, on the other side of the Piazza. This Church was called San Geminiano. Imagine what Venice looked like with another Church located right on the Piazza!! It was demolished when the Napoleonic wing (ala napoleonica) had been built, today housing Museo Correr. You can find this flagstone right on the floor near the entrance of Museo Correr.
Another Church on Piazza San Marco, demolished in 1807. Jacopo Sansovino had finished its facade in 1570 and had also been buried in this Church. Now he is buried in Chiesa San Maurizio, in Sestiere San Marco, a ten minutes walk from here.
The flagstone remembering the Church of San Geminiano
If you want to see a good duplicate of San Geminiano even today: the facade of the Church of San Maurizio, 10 minutes from here towards Campo Santo Stefano
Read more about the Church of San Geminiano in a historic book by Giuseppe Tassini about Venice churches and buildings that were demolished, with pictures of what Venice looked  a few centuries ago: Edifici di Venezia distrutti o volti ad altro uso
Passing by the Museo Correr, you might make a mental note to visit the newly opened apartments of Palazzo Reale if you want to know more about history after 1797, when, amongst others, Austrian empress Sissi had lived there during a her two stays in town (1856-57 and 1860-61).
The apartments at Palazzo Reale overlooking the Piazza were opened to the public in July 2012, click here for a short video on what the rooms look like now
Turning back and walking alongside the Procuratie Vecchie arcades, look out for a small sottoportego from which you can detect a still canal flowing immediately behind the Piazza. This canal is called Rio del Cavaletto, and it is one of my favorites in Venice: the canal widens up to become a little water basin with enough place for the gondolas to "go to sleep". So here you can see that the gondolas arrive right in Piazza San Marco !! 
Calm Venice: Bacino Orseolo illuminated by magic lights that turn its calm waters almost turqoise at night
I find Bacino Orseolo so calm and soothing at the end of the day, without any noise except for a few quick steps that you can hear in the distance. This bacino is located at the edge of two canals - the Rio di Bacino di San Orselo from where you can reach the Gran Canal far behind, and the Rio del Cavaletto running alongside most of the Procurazie Vecchie buildings. 
The Gondolas sleep right on Piazza San Marco; opposite, the Hotel Cavaletto is one of the oldest in Venice, it opened in 1308
The next sottoportego is leading to Calle del Cavaletto where you could make another mental note for a future visit to the Scuola del Merletto exposition rooms (no entry fee), to learn more about lace making, an traditional art still practised on the lagoon island of Burano. 
Seen from the sottoportego leading to Calle del Cavaletto: To enter the Scuola del Merletto exposition room, you have to cross this bridge
Continue walking along the arcades, with the chairs of the gran cafes still out in the winter darkness (mind you, there are always mild winter days round the corner when people sit down and enjoy a cappuccino in the sun on a windstill day). 
The Piazza looks dark and wet, and very still
Then cross the Piazza which is now easy with few people and even less pigeons around on this winter night, and you will notice that the Piazza is not level, but there are slight troughs and you can notice small canal lids from where the water comes surging up in case acqua alta is imminent. Acqua alta actually starts here, right in the Piazza. And you stand quite a good chance to encounter at least two or three puddles of water on a winter evening like this.
Continue walking towards the Clock Tower, then cross the Piazza to reach the other side, the Procuratie Nuove, to warm up in one of the most famous cafes in Venice
Looking towards the Clock tower Torre dell'Orologio, you can see the Christmas decorations shining red under the arcades of Procuratie Vecchie, the illumiated street in the center is the Mercerie that leads to the Rialto area
And finally, after a very thoughtful walk, when you feel the wet soil almost creeping into your shoes, this is the perfect excuse to escape to Caffè Florian's to taste its famous hot chocolate, or even a nice cup of bicerin (chocolate-flavored coffee, topped with fine whipped cream).
Christmas decorations of the Procuratie Nuove arcades seen from inside the famous Caffé Florian
More pictures from Caffe Florian, opened in 1720
Looking in on Caffé Florian: an inviting collection of teas, coffee and chocolates 
Caffé Florian is open until late in the evening ...
... there is time to enjoy a fine bicerin, served in a glass like this.

Anonimo ha detto...

A lovely post. I was once in Venice in December and it was beautiful. Unfortunately it was a sad occasion as I'd gone from Australia to my dying father in Trieste. But unforgettable memories anyway.

Furbiziahs ha detto...

Dear Ambra, I am sorry to read about your father. I hope you can come back to Venice maybe one day, in another season. It is also very nice to take a walk like this on a spring evening. Wishing you all the best.